Twenty-two neighborhood groups in Minneapolis and St. Paul helped secure a historic agreement that will dramtically reduce harmful emissions from three Xcel Energy-owned, Twin Cities-based power plants.
On December 18,2003, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted 4-1 to approve the Metro Emissions Reduction Proposal (MERP). Under the newly reached accord, Xcel Energy has agreed to convert two of its oldest and dirtiest power plants, the Riverside plant in Minneapolis and the High Bridge plant in St. Paul, from running coal to natural gas by 2009. A third plant, the A.S. King facility near Stillwater, will continue to run on coal but will have modern anti-pollution devices installed - also in compliance with the agreement.
The agreement is being hailed by environmental advocates as the single largest emission eduction episode in Minnesota history. "This is a significant victory for all environmental and clean-energy advocates," said Southeast Como Improvement Association (SECIA) Environmental Coordinator Justin Eibenholzl,a leading advocate for the proposal. "We are happy the proposal was approved because this will mean a 99 percent reduction in harmful air pollution from the Riverside and High Bridge plants."
The agreement is unique in that it marks the first time in the nation that a public utilities corporation has voluntarily agreed to change the way it produces energy. Neighborhood organizations, environmental groups and elected officials all came together to mobilize community support for this historic conversion from coal to natural gas.